Israel to reduce diplomatic presence in Turkey following Gaza protests
Turkish protesters held a massive prayer Friday afternoon in solidarity with the people of Gaza affected by the ongoing Israeli offensive on the Strip (Adem Altan/AFP)
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Israel announced Friday that it would reduce its diplomatic presence in Turkey saying that Ankara's leadership was inciting protests against Tel Aviv's operations in Gaza, according to Reuters.
Isral's Foreign Ministry told reporters that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was "inciting" the protesters who threw stones at its consulate in Istanbul and draped Palestinian flags on the ambassador's residence in Ankara.
Erdogan on Wednesday said that Tel Aviv is "terrorizing the region" and vowed to keep relations with Israel distant during his time in office, despite previous calls to renew what was once a close connection with the Jewish state pre-2010 flotilla incident.
“(Israel) has always been oppressive, and continues to oppress. Hence, as Turkey, I cannot think of positive developments with Israel as long as I hold this duty,” Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul Friday ahead of his meeting with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
“Westerners may say I am stirring up tensions, but I have the mission of winning the consent of people and God,” Erdgoan later added.
Despite such commentary, Turkish police forces have largely cracked down on the protesters that Tel Aviv has accused Erdogan of inciting, even firing tear gas and water cannons at a demonstration outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul Friday. However, in Ankara, windows of the ambassador's residence were allegedly smashed without police intervention.
“Israel strongly protests the blatant breach of diplomatic regulations... which were grossly violated by the Turkish authorities and security services during the demonstrations,” a statement from the Israeli foreign ministry said.
At least 3,000 people took to the streets in Istanbul Friday afternoon to continue to protest Israel's ongoing offensive on Gaza that has left over 275 dead in less than two weeks. Other smaller and peaceful demonstrations were reported in Ankara and the eastern city of Diyabakir as well.
“These protests will go on until all Israeli embassies are closed. I will attend all protests if I have to. I can’t even begin to express my anger at the massacre in Gaza,” said one woman to a Reuters reporter.
Turkey and Israel used to be extremely close allies in the region, but a 2010 Flotilla incident, in which Israeli soldiers boarded a ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza and killed 9 Turkish civilians, severed relations between Tel Aviv and Ankara.
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